10 Things

by Telling Dad on April 13, 2012

The writing bug is there, just hibernating I think.

For the first time since I can remember, my tank is on empty and I need to take some time to exhale. My 30 in 30 idea had valiant intent, but I never want to feel as though I’m just writing slop to hit a post count.

I’m taking the weekend to reflect, to recharge, and to hopefully stir within me what used to bubble at the surface in some unbridled mission to escape. Right now, I think if I put things into words it’d just frighten people needlessly.

With that, here’s 10 events that helped shape me. Events and life experiences that could probably comprise a book in and of themselves. Or at least a really long kickass blog series.

We’ll see.

As a lifelong entrepreneur and eternal optimist, I’ve never followed that chiseled normal path that carries you from childhood to college to career to retirement. Sometimes I wish I had, but then my daughter sits down next to me, pulls my arm around her, and falls asleep nestled next to me while I work. And I’m reminded why I can never leave the financially nomadic life of a freelancer.

I’ve never discussed this publicly but I get asked a lot why I work from home…why I don’t work for a company…and why I do what I do. In fact, few even know what the heck I do for a living. Sometimes I wonder myself.

I think self reflection is important. Even if the whole world has the opportunity to read it.

1. I started a computer business when I was 16 and named it “Computer Mercantile” after a quaint little seashell shop in Cape Cod. Well, at least the “Mercantile” part. They had nothing to do with computers, just seashells and kites. I bought parts from vendors out of Computer Shopper Magazine and assembled them from scratch in my bedroom. A system with 640Kb RAM and a 20MB hard drive cost me $900 to build and I sold at least one a week for $1200. Earning $300 a week back in those days equates to roughly $180,000 in today’s dollars. At least, it felt that way being 16.

One day, in an attempt to drum up some business, I hung some posters up outside Radio Shack. Figuring that’s where my target audience shopped, I waited for the phone to ring. Which it did. Unfortunately, my one and only call was from an attorney threatening to kill me. At least, it felt that way being 16. Man, that phone call scared me to death.

2. I started a nutritional retail business as a Freshman in college, pimpin’ out some nasty pulp-laden vitamin drink from my dorm room. At 18, I made roughly $300 a month. In 1990, at age 19, I earned roughly $8,000 a month. From ages 20-22, I averaged $18,000 a month. In income, not sales. It was too much money at too young an age.

I left college as a Junior because I thought I already knew everything.

I didn’t.

3. Eager to pursue other avenues, I flew to Los Angeles and ultimately sold my business to Tiffany, the 80s pop star, for $250,000. She was quite nice and I enjoyed several dinners and evenings out with her and her new husband (who is an ex now) and their infant son. Shortly after turning over my business, checks bounced, I pursued, and I received notice that she was declaring bankruptcy.

4. The bankruptcy trustee retained the business as part of the estate and let it die because she ruled that it “had no value if no one works it”. My income was gone. Business? Gone. Spirit? Broken. I had lost everything. I sued the attorneys who handled the sale for failing to do promised due diligence on her finances. They had no malpractice insurance and after several thousand dollars in legal fees pursuing their negligence, their firm declared bankruptcy. I now had less than nothing.

5. I went back to college to complete my degree at the age of 24. Less than a year earlier I had lived in a nicely appointed 5-bedroom home with three cars. Now I was off to college and renting a bedroom with everything I had left…clothes, a dresser, and a bed. I used public transit and endured two 3-hour Greyhound trips weekly until I finally purchased an absolute rat of a vehicle with five hundred preciously saved dollars.

6. I met my wife Heather when I had nothing to offer aside from myself. I haven’t a clue what she was attracted to but she’s living proof that the soul mate phenomenon is real.

7. My first job upon graduation paid $42,000 a year marketing webbing straps. Two years prior, I would make that in three months working three hours a day. Drowning at a desk, I left a few months later to start my own freelancing and marketing business. We had nothing, not even clients, but Heather supported my decision. I’ve never looked back. And still to this day, I work from home, for myself. We’re not rich, we’re happy, and I’ll take the latter any day of the week.

8. I eventually conceptualized, built, and designed Womb to Bloom, a pregnancy website with a wide range of features and exclusives. With the help of investors, the plans were massive, and it eventually became too much site for one man to manage. With rampant coding issues making my beloved Showcases dormant, it hit hard. Really hard. It’s a potential gold mine, it truly is, but pursuing technology like this doesn’t come cheap or easy. It’s still my crown jewel, I just have to make the difficult decisions on scaling it back so it can move forward. It’s hard to watch your baby sputter so close to the finish line.

9. To aggressively pursue my design and marketing business I started Engine1Media.com (blog design, site design, print media, seo, etc.). My plan was to have my site completed before Christmas. It’s now mid-April and I still have little more than a splash page. I’m so busy doing work for everyone else that I haven’t had time to complete my own site. And you know what? I love it. I love that my reputation and previous work has led to a jammed schedule. But it would be really cool to be able to show off the dozens of sites I’ve designed in that timeframe.

Sigh. Someday.

10. I still struggle. It’s been years and I’m still dealing with the emotional fallout from losing it all. Although it did lead me to Heather and for that I’m eternally grateful. It’s been a long and arduous road of personal and fiscal recovery but I feel somewhat vindicated that I didn’t take the recommended easy way out with Chapter 7. I could have, and for some, it’s the only way to salvation, but I never felt quite ready to give up. As silly as it sounds, that decision carries me.

Well, there you have it. A totally random and unfunny blurt. A verbal purge that will hopefully knock whatever wrench is lodged in my cogs. I have no idea why I wrote it, it kinda just wrote itself, but I already feel that it’s been somewhat cathartic.

I’m sure part of my mood stems from a string of “one step forward, two steps back” experiences lately, but I also know some of it is just plain ol’ stress. And it’s hard to find that funny bone when you feel mired in it.

Anyhow, it’s all good. I have no plans to climb on a ledge or bungee jump without a cord. I just need a few days to prioritize, reorganize, and internalize. I thank you all for visiting, for your kind emails, and for keeping me in your web readers. No doubt there are a zillion blog destinations out there, and I’m truly honored that you make mine one of them.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah April 13, 2012 at 1:09 am

Dude. I think you’re awesome.

That is all.

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WilyGuy April 13, 2012 at 4:11 am

Wow, I was waiting for a punch line while you were taking a punch in the gut. That is quite the life experience.

I’m glad you’re happy. It is sometimes cliche to say “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” but it is true. My own personal experience was stepping back for a Director of IT job. I had the chops to do the job, but lacked the passion. When I applied for another job, they informed me in the interview that I wasn’t going to be a Director level position to which I smiled and said “Thank God.”

I wrote a little post a while back about lessons I learned along the workforce way called Tips for a Happier Work Life where I talked about removing money as a motivator.

Anyway, there are only 3-4 bloggers that I would mindlessly hit refresh all day long JUST to catch a well written word from…and you are one of the others…kidding! You’re top 2!

WG

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Joanna April 13, 2012 at 6:25 am

well, wow. I was sucked in right off the bat so I say, take all the time you need but just remember, your readers love your writing. So that being said, book or blog, you need to expand on everything you just wrote about. Honestly, I would buy the book. :)

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Karen April 13, 2012 at 6:52 am

I’ve always followed the philosophy that everything that happens in your life happens for a reason, shapes you as a person, and leads you along the path of where you’re supposed to go. Like you said, if you hadn’t had those early experiences, you wouldn’t have been in the right place at the right time to meet Heather. I’ve had some of those same life experiences in my working life, and although I don’t like them, and I regret them, they did motivate me and shape my attitudes to what they are now. Take care of yourself.

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Chelle April 13, 2012 at 7:28 am

Wow, how do guys come up with these “dorm room” ideas that allow them to quit college? I am truly amazed at the cojones and smarts it takes to do this. (Enter Mark Zuckerberg…? Wait, no, he stole that one.)

Everything you write it well written. You shouldn’t feel that you have to be funny all the time. Someone said to me a couple of days ago, you have to remember you blog for YOU. Not your audience, YOU. When I started my blog, I never figured anyone would read it. But people do and I am honored that they keep coming back because I’m a mess in human form.

Take a couple of days off and do something fun with the family. You’ll be glad you did. Sometimes you just need to disconnect from the online world. Even though the online world loves you!

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Valerie April 13, 2012 at 7:49 am

Don’t worry about “us”. We will still be here when you want to write. Just remember you don’t always have to blog about the funny stuff. This post probably hit closer to my house than any of your other blogs. I quit doing something I am truly great at, to do something I like doing and trust me my family wasn’t as forgiving as my husband. We are struggling to repay some major debt because I don’t believe in Chapter 7 or 9 for me,Other people can do whatever they feel necessary but I can’t do it for me. Take the kids and the dogs on a picnic, get the wife tipsy and have lots of fun doing both LOL

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Kaitlyn April 13, 2012 at 8:04 am

You are awesome. And what an incredible experience to learn from at such an early age.
Amusingly, this sort of ties in with my last blog entry about defining your dream job. Sort of a cautionary tale on it – it’s good to know what you want but it’s important not to get too cocky.

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valmg @ Mom Knows It All April 13, 2012 at 8:27 am

I’d buy the book.

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Julianna April 13, 2012 at 8:47 am

May I just say that you are SO DAMNED BRAVE!

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Kate April 13, 2012 at 8:59 am

See? This is why you’re awesome, why you have the loyal following you do, and why you will continue to prosper.

I know people who have struggled and those who have been handed great fortunes. I have to tell you, I like those that earned their way all the more, because they APPRECIATE IT all the more.

Keep writing, whatever strikes you, we’ll keep coming back, whether it’s 30 in 30, or 15 in 45, we’ll be here.

Oh, and that list? I concur with all the other commenters above: WRITE THE BOOK, ALREADY. I’ll buy it. Heck. I’d buy a few copies just so I could hand it to a few acquaintances who need a kick in the butt.

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Rae April 13, 2012 at 9:32 am

I enjoy reading your writing and outlook on life. Funny or not, its real. It has already been said, but your blog is more about YOU than the readers.

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Peggy April 13, 2012 at 10:05 am

“We’re not rich, we’re happy, and I’ll take the latter any day of the week.” -Sums up my life. Thanks for your blog!

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Eldred April 13, 2012 at 11:08 am

“The writing bug is there, just hibernating I think.” This is something many in our community of writers often feels… but hang in there, those few 26 letters have formed more than a million words, and the varied combinations of all those words cannot be read in a lifetime, but most have lasted many lifetimes. Yours will too.
And lest we forget, this blog of yours is still a winner!

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Michelle W April 13, 2012 at 11:15 am

You are an AWESOME Role Model for your CHILDREN!!

Yes you may have been smacked down hard but boy howdy are you standing taller, stronger and prouder than ever!!

Thanks for purging so all of can remember that there is ALWAYS a Silver Lining–sometimes it may be hard to find but it is there if we look. “-)

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Mishka April 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Writing, even if it isn’t want you wanted to write, is always good therapy…LOL. I consider myself a writer…unfortunately most of my writing is for volunteer jobs and I joke that if I were paid by the word, I would be a millionaire by now. But writing is writing so keep it up even if it isn’t “funny” or whatever goal you have for it…I am really enjoying the read!!

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Rebeccah April 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm

This may be my most favorite post. From the heart and I loved it.

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Bubbe April 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Just wow Greg. Thanks for this; it helps put my own experiences in perspective. Have a good weekend whatever you decide to do. We’ll be here when you get back.

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Deborah April 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm

My estimation of you just increased seven-fold.

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Vanna April 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Great post any way. We all need to stop and reflect every once in a while.

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A.B. April 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I agree with the others! Your writing is compelling and I don’t care if it’s funny or not, I’ll keep reading. Interesting story, and goes to show you can be interesting when not making a joke. I don’t care the topic you choose to write about; I’m in for the ride! Like the other commenter said, you are one of the few bloggers on the top of my reader list.

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Connie t April 13, 2012 at 9:00 pm

At least you found your one true love.

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Caroline April 14, 2012 at 6:23 am

I’d definitely buy the book! :)

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Dr Em and Princess WeeWee April 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm

You have a lot to be proud of and a lot to smile about. Don’t worry…the funny always comes back.

Princess WeeWee

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Buffy April 14, 2012 at 7:28 pm

I wish there was some way for you to know how much this post has touched me. How applicable it is to the weird twist my life has recently taken. How similar my journey is to yours in many ways. How odd it is that the rare, unlikely set of circumstances that led me to Jenny’s blog, that led me to your blog, always comes at a time when I am at a crossroads of sorts in my life. Maybe you don’t remember me, but just as your words touched me when I lost Jules, your story gives me faith to continue on even as I start over now. Thank you for helping me keep faith. Much <3 to you and your family.

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Karen C April 14, 2012 at 11:40 pm

But Greg, you bought a firetruck. DUDE you bought a firetruck!
That alone is all your kids, grandkids and grand,grand,grandkids ever need to know.
It makes you the coolest person ever.

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Faith.The Blond. April 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Greg,

I want to share with you why I read your blog. Because you and your beautiful family are living what 90% of Americans (and dare I say, the world?) are living?

We all have bills to pay and ER visits for broken fingers and pictures of our SO’s butts being compared to apples and dogs who are addicted to inhaling sticks. YOU are US!!

The difference? You blog about it and try to but humor into it. And when you can’t put humor into it (due to the circumstances) you tell it like it is. Some are blessed to be able to write like you and many other bloggers do. Some verbalize it through video, and others just gripe and laugh and cry with friends and family and co-workers.

THAT, my friend, is how WE ALL live! I find you refreshing to read because you don’t really b!tch about life. Yeah, you might gripe a little, but not usually an all out rant.

Thank you for doing what you do.

Faith

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Shan @ Last Shreds Of Sanity April 15, 2012 at 4:29 pm

So you got screwed royally by Tiffany and didn’t even get kissed? That sucks.

And now I have “I think we’re alone now” stuck in my head. By the way, I never really like her. I always thought she had very little talent. Clearly, my instincts were right.

I still can’t believe how much you were making at 19! You’re good, Greg, really good, at what you do. Although until this post I wasn’t quite sure what you did either. :D

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Lori April 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Greg, I loved what Faith.The Blond said. This made me cry at work becuase I know all you have gone through. You bought me my first car before I had a drivers license! You have always been there for me and others when they needed it. Never think twice about how talented you are. You may have told mom when I changed my grades on my report card, you may have told mom when I snuck out of the house, you may have put peanut butter on my mouth and held me down so the dog could lick my face but you are my brother and by far my best friend.

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Sheila April 16, 2012 at 1:16 pm

“OK I’ll have to admit that every day this week I have been deeply disappointed when I didn’t see a new blog from you. I enjoy everything you write , funny or not. I will tell you “The Blog Improvement Fee” is still making me LMAO though. Buddy you were on a roll the first week of April. That’s what made the silence not so golden but that’s OK because like your other readers have said, we’ll still be here when you feel like writing.”

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Sheila April 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Greg, I went to “Womb to Bloom” website and the first article I read I was in love with already. My daughter just had a baby 6 months ago (my first grandchild, yahoooo) and we had already talked at length about what to do when your baby won’t sleep at night. The advice I gave her pretty much summed up what your writer said too I love the humor they insert in the article and the honesty. It was a great article and a wonderful website. I am going to have to go there as she has googled lots of stuff since becoming pregnant. Thanks from all the mothers-to-be and mothers, oh and grandmothers who might have forgotten a few things along the way, lol.

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Saraellenawesome April 16, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Great post. Really. It’s nice to know what someone’s been through so that you can really get a better idea of who they are today. I really enjoy your blog and I hope the wrench has been removed. I totally get the stress=less blogging thing. It’s rough to go from having daily funny things to write about to wow…I have nothing to write about today.

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Nancy B April 16, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Thanks for sharing a very personal side to your life. You have had some great life experiences and some tough lessons in life/business. All have shaped you into the awesome husband and father you are today. Remember, it’s not the number of breaths in life you take, but the moments in life that take your breath away. (or something like that!) Enjoy every day and everything else will fall in place.

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Rocketeli May 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Must be a typo in your story–if you were clearing 14000 a month in income that means at least 25000k a month sales (I’m assuming pretax, and a low overhead situation) which is 400000k a year in sales. You don’t sell a 400000k a year business for 250000k–maybe a zero was left off?
Great blog BTW, I’m impressed by your talent (and energy.)

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